What’s most likely to kill you? You may be surprised
Today, Americans under 80 are most likely to die from heart disease, although deaths from drug abuse and unintentional accidents are on the rise, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other diseases rounding out the top 5 include cancers, stroke and respiratory diseases.
“What’s most striking to me about this data is how many of these diseases are preventable,” says Dr. Asad Zaman, an internal medicine physician on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Through preventive health care and positive lifestyle changes, most people can significantly decrease their risk of developing heart disease and many types of cancer, for instance.”
From 2010 to 2014, there was significant improvement in several of these areas. Potentially preventable deaths from cancer dropped 25 percent, while preventable deaths from stroke dropped 11 percent, and heart disease 4 percent.
Together, however, the top 5 causes still make up nearly two-thirds of all deaths in the United States.
Most troubling is the significant rise in deaths from unintentional injury, which CDC researchers attribute to increasing numbers of drug overdoses and falls.
“There is a lot we can do to prevent unnecessary deaths. While public health researchers and physicians work on the problems at the national level, patients can begin at home,” says Dr. Zaman.
He offers these tips for getting started:
- Exercise more. One of the leading predictors of early death is low fitness level. The more you move, the healthier you are likely to be. Getting new fitness habits to stick can be tricky, so make it easier on yourself by finding something you enjoy doing. You don’t have to run marathons to be fit. Even taking daily walks with your spouse or a friend can improve your health.
- Improve your diet. Try to avoid packaged foods and fill up on fruits and vegetables instead. Oversized portions are an easy way to accidentally overeat, so try to be mindful. And be easy on yourself – allow yourself the occasional ‘cheat’ day to indulge in your favorite foods so you don’t grow to resent your new lifestyle.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, commit to quitting. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, yet one of the easiest to prevent. Quitting smoking can also decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke, which together, account for 1 in 3 deaths in the United States today.
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About the Author
Amanda Jo Greep is the manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest. She has more than ten years of experience in communications and public affairs and has worked with a variety of nonprofits and health care organizations. Jo holds a master's of public administration degree in health policy and management from New York University. In her spare time, she is a Girl Scout leader, runner and amateur genealogist.